Support Materials

Study Strategies for Science Students:
How to Support Your Students’ Preparation for Assessments in Biology
Performance Assessments provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of important concepts in
a unit of study through visual, written and/or oral responses. When they are embedded into the instructional program in
each classroom they provide teachers with immediate and comprehensive information about student
- Thomas
Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
Aimee Wagner
Science Department Chair
TEAM Schools, Newark NJ
[email protected]
Read more:Cole Entress
Biology Teacher
TEAM Schools, Newark NJ
[email protected]
What is Effective Studying?
Effective studying is more than just reading over class notes or a textbook the night before a test. Studying is
an active process and, just like any other skill, strong study habits – which are essential for success in college can be developed through effective, DAILY practice.
Here are the four study strategies that we learn and practice in Biology:
1. Crib Sheets (Shrink Notes)
A crib sheet is a study tool used in preparation for exams that require students to recall a large amount
of material. Students re-write notes from a notebook or text in a small space. The crib sheets can be
hand-written or typed and both approaches can be equally effective.
The process of consolidating notes to a crib sheet involves:
1. identifying the most important information on the topic
2. writing down the essential material in a format that is most logical for the student, and
3. reviewing the content of the crib sheet for accuracy and completeness
4. commit the information on the crib sheet to memory through daily practice
This multi-step process results in far greater long term retention of the information contained on their
crib sheet.
In general, students who create high quality crib sheets earn higher grades on their exams. Very few
students with poorly constructed crib sheets do well on the tests.
Criteria for Success:
A quality student crib sheet…
 Demonstrates a student’s ORIGINAL work - no portion is copied directly from a text.
 Use 1 side of standard, 8½” by 11” sheets of paper
 Contains content spanning the entire review text
2. Science Vocabulary Note Cards
Biology students are often challenged by the large amount of unfamiliar vocabulary taught in the course.
However, without a strong foundation in the science vocabulary, they will not be able to master complex
biological concepts. The words students learn become stepping-stones to the next concept – and without those
words, further learning becomes difficult, progress becomes slower and frustration results.
There is a strong correlation between reading comprehension and vocabulary development. “Teaching words
well means giving students multiple opportunities to learn how words are conceptually related to one another in
the material they are studying” (Vacca &Vacca, 2002, p. 160). The regular creation and practice with Science
Vocabulary Note Cards should become a foundation to increasing reading comprehension.
Criteria for Success:
A quality set of Science Vocabulary Note Cards…
 Demonstrates a student’s ORIGINAL work
 Front of Card includes: the student’s initials, the word spelled correctly and a picture or diagram
 Back of Card includes: a textbook definition with page number, an example of that term, and the word
used in an original sentence
Definition - from textbook, dictionary
or notes (p.#)
Example – give an example of this
Your Own Words - use the word in a
sentence of your own!
Population: group of individuals of the
same species that live in the same area.
Example: All the pigeons in Newark
My Own Sentence: After leaving food
on my kitchen counter for two days, I
found two populations: ants and
3. Memory!
Memory is a children’s game that can be modified for study purposes and used in preparation for exams. The
process of creating memory game cards involves:
(i) determining relationships between terms and concepts that will create a matching pair (i.e. words +
definitions; words + examples; words & pictures)
(ii) creating the memory cards
(iii) developing concentration and memory skills through game play
Criteria for Success:
A quality student-prepared memory game …
 Includes cards whose matches have a defined relationship (i.e. words + definitions; words + examples;
words & pictures)
 Includes cards that demonstrate a student’s ORIGINAL work
 Game set includes 20-36 cards
Directions for Play: The MEMORY game consists of a set of cards that is shuffled and placed face down in an
orderly arrangement (square). The cards are exposed two at a time and a matching pair of cards must be
exposed simultaneously to be captured by a player. This requires players to remember the relationship between
the cards, the appearance and the position of the cards to be successful in capturing them. Play continues until
all of the pairs have been captured. The person who captures the most pairs wins!
Sample Cards - Play Ecology Memory! 
An interaction
between two
species where at
least one organism
benefits; the other
may benefit, be
harmed, or be
largely unaffected
Birds follow
swarms of army
ants in the jungle.
The ants stir up
flying insects the
birds can eat. Birds
benefit; ants are
neither helped nor
Organisms in
an ecosystem
must compete
for limited
An interaction in
which one
organism benefits
while the other one
is harmed. For
example: the
interaction of
mosquitos and
The bird gets a meal; the
croc gets clean teeth!
working together
to increase their
chances of
Two species compete
for the same resource.
One of the two
competitors will
always eventually take
over the resource
completely and the
other species will be
forced to find a new
location to gather
resources or will
become extinct.
The maximum
population size
that a particular
can sustain for
4. Study Deck Games
A study deck is a deck of study cards that are used to increase comprehension of biological concepts as students
prepare for class, quizzes or exams. The learning occurs during the creation of the cards and through consistent
review of questions and answers.
Creating a Study Deck is easy!
1. Gather approximately 20 blank index cards. Place your initials in the bottom right hand corner of each card just
in case they get lost!
2. Identify questions to write on the front side of each card. Sample questions can be found in the following
a. Textbook section reviews
b. Textbook chapter reviews
c. Old quizzes and tests
d. Class notes
e. The Internet
3. Once you have your pile of study cards, answer the questions IN COMPLETE SENTENCES found on the front of
the card on the back of the card using your notes, textbook, or any study resource. Start with the easy ones
and work up to the more difficult questions. Include a page reference to the correct answer.
What happens
during diffusion?
During diffusion, particles
move from an area where
they are more concentrated
to an area where they are
less concentrated. (p. 184)
Criteria for Success:
A quality student-prepared study deck …
 Front of Card includes: the student’s initials, and a concept question
 Back of Card includes: a correct answer to the concept question written in complete sentences
 Includes cards that demonstrate a student’s ORIGINAL work
 Game set includes a minimum of 20 cards
Recommendations for Study Deck Games on Next Page!
Once you have completed your study deck, it is time to practice answering the questions! Below are three ways
that you can use study decks to study:
a. Individual – Pick up the card from the top, look at the question, and think to yourself: “the answer is…”.
Then turn the card over to see the correct answer. Put the card in one of two piles on the table: The
ones you knew (got the answer right on the first time without looking) and the ones you didn’t know.
When your hand is empty, you pick up the deck with the questions you didn’t know, and start over, For
each time you do that the “did know” pile on the table will be a little bit bigger. Finally, when your hand
is completely empty, you may simply start all over again. You will be surprised how quickly you learn!
b. First to Finish – Use the same technique above, but with a partner where you are asking one another
the questions. The first one to get all of the answers correct wins! Play until both partners can get all of
the answers correct from start to finish!
c. Tic-Tac-Toe – Create a tic-tac-toe board on a piece of scrap paper and decide which player will be X’S
and which player will be O’S. Player X asks player O a question from the study deck. If player O gets the
answer correct, they get to make a move on the tic-tac-toe board. If player O gets the answer wrong,
they lose their turn. Quiz your partner using this game strategy until someone gets tic-tac-toe. Best
out of three wins!
d. BOOM! Bag – Place the entire Study Deck into a brown paper bag. In addition, place several (4-6) cards
with the work BOOM! written on one side into the brown paper bag. Players take turns answering the
questions pulled from the bag. If a player answers the question correctly, they maintain possession of
the question card. If a player does not answer the question correctly, they must return the question card
to the brown paper bag to be played again. If a player pulls a BOOM! card from the paper bag during
the course of play, all of the questions the player captured must be returned to the paper bag, and the
player loses a turn. The player with the most cards captured at the end of the game play wins.
Your Turn!
Play Tic-Tac-Toe with a partner using the study deck cards you created.
Reflection Questions:
1. What are the benefits of using this technique?
2. The benefits of partner study are most apparent when practiced
on a regular basis. How might you integrate partner study into
your family’s daily routine?
Part 2: How to Create a Study Schedule
We all have only 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week. It isn’t the amount of time you have that makes a difference
between success and failure, but how your student uses the time they have. Time management can help your student
keep control of one of their most valuable assets so that they can achieve their most important goals in high school.
Steps for Creating and Using a Study Schedule (for students):
1. Make out a new schedule for each week (ideally on Sunday night), keeping your completed schedules in a three
ring binder. This way you can keep a paper trail of your activities throughout the semester and better analyze
the reasons for your accomplishments or disappointments after finals as you prepare for the next semester.
2. Determine your goals for the semester, one that you can attain if you really commit yourself to achieve it, but
not one that is either unattainably high or one that is so easy to achieve that you feel no challenge in making it.
Document your semester GPA goal in the lower left corner of your Study Schedule each week.
3. Determine your study goals for each class. You might have to modify your study goals per class as you familiarize
yourself with the study demands for each class. Document your weekly study hour goal on the bottom of your
Study Schedule each week.
4. Mark off all of your classes and solid commitments (like a job) in ink. This reminds you to go to class and go to
work. You cannot erase ink!
5. Pencil in your sleeping, eating and planned open times. Do as much as you can to plan for 7-8 hours of sleep per
6. Pencil in the number of hours you plan to study. You will use a pencil because “things come up” that might
cause a change in your study plans. If you erase four study hours on Monday, for example, then pencil in four
hours elsewhere in your Study Schedule into the rest of your week. Try to schedule all of your study time so you
can be done by Friday night. That way, if you don’t make it by Friday night, you have Saturday and Sunday as
“buffer time” to catch up. If you do make it, you then have the weekend to catch up on housework, have fun,
and prepare for the following week.
7. Pencil in a certain amount of “fun time” during the week as well as on the weekend. Time away from studying is
essential for maintaining your study efficiency. Planning for fun time and exercise reduces the temptation to
“skip out” of planned study time to go have fun. It also reduces the tendency to feel guilty during the week
when you are engaged in recreation, and additionally improves your concentration when you are engaged in
study or project time.
8. At the end of the week, add up the number of hours you actually studied and document them in the lower right
corner of the Study Schedule. If you don’t make your goal, don’t try to “piggy back” them onto the next week’s
schedule. Make up a new Study Schedule and begin again.
9. Try not to study a given subject more than two hours at a time, as study efficiency goes down dramatically after
that. Also, if you have two very similar subjects, try not to study them back to back. Instead, “sandwich” a
subject that is very different from the two classes in between the two classes whose subjects are very close to
each other. This improves study efficiency for all three subjects.
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